Thursday, January 31, 2013

Learning from Lessons Learned Exercise

I spent the past two days at a conference in Fredericton, New Brunswick.  The U of NB's Gregg Centre and the Canadian Force's Combat Training Centre held a two day conference on what the Canadian Army can learn from its Afghanistan experience.  I presented on the lessons about multilateral military operations--drawing from the Dave and Steve book (coming to a bookstore near you late in 2013).

It was a bit different of a crowd.  I have presented my stuff to military audiences before, but these folks were almost entirely Captains and Majors and senior enlisted folks (plus a general or two and some colonels).  So, they had experienced a tour or two (or more) in Afghanistan and perhaps Bosnia, Cyprus and beyond.  They knew countries varied in how they conducted the war, but not about the sources of such variations.  Ta da!

I also learned stuff.  I learned that these folks had far more multinational experience than "joint."  Joint refers to working with other parts of the Canadian Forces, but, outside of helo support (all helos are RCAF), these folks didn't have much interaction with the other services. 

Today's sessions were breakout groups or "syndicates" as they called them.  I chose the multinational one.  Someone raised the idea of multilateral ops as a carpool--that someone is always driving the rest.  Often the US, sometimes the Brits.  The problem with the metaphor is that it gives way too much control to the driver---how many cars do you know move in four directions at once?

It was interesting to see the Marines come up a lot, as they used to have little multilateral experience.  But the Canadians often used them as examples.  Perhaps because, like the Marines, the Canadians pride themselves on adaptability produced by having old/lousy/too little equipment.

I had an interesting conversation with a female FOO.  This would be a forward observation officer--a person that manages the infantry's connection to artillery and air support.  In 2006, Canada had its first female KIA--Nichola Goddard--who had been a FOO.  I wondered if the CF got more protective of their FOOs, female or otherwise, after Goddard's death, but the officer I was talking to said that they were far more protective of the new grunt in the group--an 18 year old kid.  

I realized that knowing acronyms is not sufficient to faking being a military person.  It is necessary but not sufficient.  What you also have to do is say the following things alot:

  • sort.  As in: "we need to get x sorted."  Lots of sorting going on.  
  • piece.  As in "he was assigned the training piece, she got the int piece (not intel, just int)" and so on.  
  • construct as a noun.  As in "the training construct served us well in the short term, but can we build a similar construct somewhere else."  
  • enable. Heaps of enable and enablers around.  
One of my contributions I made to the discussion was to point out that referring to the other services constantly as enablers meant that, yes, you might value their role in helping you out (enabling you to do what you need to do), but then you are also making the service feel as if they are secondary to you.  Thus, I was suggesting that if one wants better jointness, better relations among the services, one might want to stop referring to them as enablers.  "Who you calling an enabler?"  Somehow, I doubt that I will change this habit.  I do hope, however, that my stuff on multilateral military operations does enable the CF down the road.  

Finally, they kept calling me sir.  Always feels strange--me a sir?  

Oh, and I learned more than this.  A smart group of interesting people with much experience and have thougth much about it.

1 comment:

rich said...

I guess that is the trueth then...